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Blog: THE Point

By Grant Oliphant

Why a diverse workforce matters for Pittsburgh's future

Vibrant Pittsburgh’s report on its regional workforce diversity survey is an incredibly important data set for any of us who are interested in the future of this region and the importance of attracting a diverse population and workforce.

The report speaks for itself, but it’s worth noting three things this report is NOT:


1. The issues it points to are NOT just a matter of perspective.

Plenty of people don’t want to hear that our region faces a diversity challenge. They don’t care or they don’t believe it, and they will want to dismiss this report as merely a collection of opinions.

Even if one believes that, we ALL should want to hear about how minorities view opportunity in this region.

Empathy, the quality of being able to see the world from your neighbor’s perspective, is the defining characteristic of a high-functioning community. And perspectives shape reality: If minorities view Pittsburgh and their workplaces as unwelcoming or filled with barriers to their own advancement, those who can will vote with their feet and move elsewhere, and those who can’t will become dispirited about opportunities to change things for the better.

However, and here is the critical point, the perceptions shared in this report are rooted in reality. We know this because of the recently released Urban Institute report on barriers to advancement faced by African-American men in our region. Those barriers are real and need to be addressed. We know this, too, from simply opening our own eyes and ears.

It doesn’t take a genius or any special research to see how divided Pittsburgh is between the city that appears on all the “best-of” lists and the very different city experienced by communities that are predominantly poor and African-American, and by individuals who are “different” from the majority.


2. This is NOT just a concern for minorities.

That division between the “two Pittsburghs” is bad for all of us, not just for minorities. We all need to care about whether this is a place where everyone is valued. It will define who comes here and helps us grow, who stays here and helps us prosper, and how many of us who are already here are given the real opportunity to succeed.

This is a time of dynamic opportunity and change in our community—probably the most hopeful moment Pittsburgh has experienced in at least a generation. But our greatest point of vulnerability, the weakness that could be our undoing, lies in our remaining a place where minorities feel unwelcome or excluded. Embracing minorities and our differences detracts from no one; it elevates all of us, and may be the secret to Pittsburgh’s long-term success.


3. This is NOT unfixable.

Whenever issues of diversity and inclusion come up, there are inevitably some voices that say these problems are unresolvable. That’s nonsense. We can fix this.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto is using technology to open up the bidding process for city contracts to more minority business owners. Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald is rethinking the county contracting process to do the same. Both have demonstrated a commitment to diversity in their hiring. Many of our region’s major corporations have embraced a commitment to diversity and inclusion, and they are making it real by monitoring promotions and hiring.

Employment practices, bidding rules and processes are just some of the ways we can make this a more equitable region, but there’s nothing outlandish or even especially difficult about them. We just have to be intentional about the type of workplaces, culture and community we are trying to create.

And that, by the way, starts and stops with all of us wanting to make this a place where everyone is truly welcome. If that is truly our intention, we can make it happen and we will all be better for it.

AAMB, African American boys, African American men, Community & Economic Development, Education, mentoring, social change, social leadership
Written by

Grant Oliphant


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Nevena Staresinic

1/18/2016 at 11:43 PM

Grant Oliphant makes an incredibly import point:  communities are only strong when all members thrive.  If we take the time to stop, observe what is happening around us, realign our thoughts and actions in a way that benefits the entire community we allow space for a broader, more expansive and inclusive lens from which to move forward. 

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